Raiders rookie DeAndre Washington making early impression
NAPA, Calif. (AP) While many people around the league have questioned whether DeAndre Washington has the size to stick in the NFL, Raiders rookie running back sees his stature as a benefit instead of a hindrance.
It certainly hasn't taken the 5-foot-8-inch, 205-pound Washington long to make an impact in training camp.
On the second day of practice, the 5-foot-8, 205-pound running back took a handoff from quarterback Matt McGloin and cut around the left corner then broke into the open field for a long gain.
Two days later, Washington bounced back after getting bowled over by linebacker Cory James during a blitz pick-up drill and left James grasping at air with a nifty move during a team scrimmage.
It's that type of potential that convinced the Raiders to draft the Texas Tech standout and is why Washington is brimming with confidence in spite of what critics might be saying.
''Being a smaller guy works in my favor,'' Washington said during a break in practice. ''Being behind those big guys, epecially when you put those paads on, makes it kind of hard to see me. It's definitely a good feeling when I can hide and do my thing behind those guys.''
Washington could wind up playing a pivotal role on a running game that was up and down most of last season.
Latavius Murray was second in the AFC and sixth overall with 1,066 yards but the Raiders finished 28th overall in rushing.
Part of the issue stemmed from a lack of committment to the running game and also from the inability of the backups to keep the ground game going when Murray came out to rest.
That's one of the primary reasons that general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Jack Del Rio wanted to add depth to the backfield. They experimented with Trent Richardson in training camp a year ago then went with the tandem of Taiwan Jones and Roy Helu Jr. during the regular season.
Jones and Washington have been splitting reps behind Murray in practice. Helu was placed on injured reserve before camp began after having surgery on both hips.
Much of the focus, though, is on Washington, a fifth-round draft pick who rushed for 1,492 yards and 14 touchdowns during his senior season in college.
''With the case of DeAndre and Jalen (Richard), some of the younger guys, we're really learning about our younger guys,'' Del Rio said Monday. ''We're learning about these guys that are new to us. We want to make sure that we're really thorough with them, that we give them an opportunity to express who they are, let them compete, and then learn. We're taking notes and we're sharing the information. As a football team, we want to make sure we take advantage of the individual talents that we have.''
Murray looked strong in offseason workouts and made one long run up the middle during a scrimmage portion of practice on Saturday.
Washington countered that with a few big runs of his own and believes he can be a nice complement to Murray in the Raiders' backfield.
''We both bring different skill sets to the table, so I think it makes it a little bit harder to game plan for opposing teams,'' Washington said. ''I'm looking forward to working with him and making plays with him.''
Murray welcomed Washington's arrival in the offseason and is confident the two can help improve Oakland's ground game.
''We know the expectations we hold for ourselves and the talk that's been going around, but we know that right now it's just talk,'' Murray said. ''The only thing that we can go out there and do is get better, come together as a team and put it all together so we can play and win on Sundays. Right now, it's just on paper and here's the time where we put it together and live up to the hype.''
NOTES: Fourth-round pick Connor Cook returned after attending a funeral on Sunday. ... Left guard Kelechi Osemele also came back to practice after sitting out one day for undisclosed reasons.